Students to be included as ‘child belonging to disadvantaged group’.
Kolkata: The West Bengal Board of Secondary Education (WBBSE) has issued a notification to the heads of all government schools that come under its purview making it clear that a student living with or diagnosed with HIV will be included as “child belonging to disadvantaged group”.
The notification of WBBSE comes in the wake of some schools ostracising students with HIV and not allowing them to attend classes. Such incidents were reported from South 24 Parganas and Howrah district of West Bengal. “The student under the ‘disadvantaged group’ will get the same facilities like the SC/ ST or those categorised under the minority group. He/ she will get government grant, reservation, scholarship and hostel facilities of similar nature as SC/ ST and other backward class students. The notification has been sent to all schools,” a top official of the school education department said.
The provisions of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, accrues certain rights to all children as well as “certain additional rights if they are declared to be belonging to disadvantage group”. But as there was no notification, it was often disobeyed. An NGO working in the field of HIV-AIDS had moved the SC a few months back and submitted that children living with or affected by HIV are segregated and in many cases, compelled to leave schools even though there was zero risk of transmission of the disease.
In its plea, the NGO had sought framing of guidelines to prevent any kind of discrimination against students due to their HIV status or that of their parents or guardians. Following this, the apex court in May had directed the state governments to issue a notification to include children affected with HIV in disadvantaged group for imparting free, compulsory education under the 2009 law.
According to a National Aids Control Organisation report, the total number of people living with HIV in India was estimated at around 20.9 lakh in 2011 and 1.45 lakh were children less than 15 years of age.